Filed under: Education
Governor Deval Patrick announced new education programs for the Commonweath’s Gateway Cities.
First – Gateway Cities: “Gateway Cities have a population between 35,000 and 250,000, with an average household income below the state average and an average educational attainment rate (Bachelor’s or above) below the state average.” Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 23A , §3(a).
Second – the policy.
Building off his 2010 Achievement Gap Act, the programs in for the Gateway Cities will focus on ensuring that every child, regardless of socioeconomic or racial background is provided the opportunity to succeed.
Here’s the information released today about the four goals and programs that will be implemented to achieve the goals:
(1) getting every child to reading proficiency by the third grade - Kindergarten Readiness Literacy Pilot Program
(2) providing every child with a healthy platform for education - Student Support Councils
(3) creating a differentiated education system that meets each student, particularly English Language Learners, where they are - Summer English Learning Program
(4) preparing all students for college and career success - pilot high school career academies
Not much information has been released about the specifics of these programs, but the reform are certainly in the right direction (and seemingly focused towards Massachusetts’ Race to the Top).
Despite all of the work done on education policy within the Boston Public Schools, it is important to remember how economic and industrial changes over the past 50 years have drastically impacted former mill towns and other areas of Massachusetts. In the Commonwealth, as in many other states throughout the country, achievement gaps do not just exist between cities/rural areas and the suburbs, but also in former flourishing towns that have fallen on hard times as the economy has changed.
Filed under: Education
“Data analysis is so trendy these days that Brad Pitt is getting millions of people to sit through a movie about quantitative methodology.” – Andrew Rotherham
Rotherham argues that quantitative education analysis fails for three reasons: poor data quality, lack of common definitions, and little respect for evidence. While his article mostly applies to using quantitative methods to evaluate teachers, his arguments can also be applied to the larger questions of education policy and reform.
First, poor data quality. Rotherham notes that the data quality in education is poor because of the limited use of education data, the differing standards for the collection of data across the states, and the lack of transparency. Yes, the educational system is not very transparent – or at least it wasn’t before NCLB was enacted. Yes, there is a lack of data on how to correctly evaluate teachers. And yes, data is used very sparing in the educational policy sector (kind of). Still, it is wrong to argue that the data quality overall is poor. In fact ,one of the US Department of Education’s main functions in the collection of data. This data collection – at the state, national, and district levels – expanded drastically since the implementation of NCLB. Heck, AYP is all about data. I don’t think that the educational system lacks data – it’s certainly out there, the issue is that we don’t have enough of it. The other issue is that, like many social science fields, it’s often difficult to quantify the variables that we’re dealing with. That gets to Rotherham’s second point – lack of common definitions.
Without common definitions of “good teacher,” “proficient,” or “graduation standard” (hell, even 4-year graduation rate), it’s extremely difficult to quantify variables. But that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be done and that certainly doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done.
Finally, Rotherham points to little respect for evidence. Education policy is inherently political. When the big wigs in DC, at the state house, or in the school committee don’t listen to the results of your quantitative study, they’re not just doing it to disregard the methodology, they’re doing it because they have their own political agenda. When all of the evidence points to how extended learning time helps students learn more in school, how do you think the teachers’ unions can disregard this without completely disregarding the evidence. Yet, as political science and science more generally have shown, people can disregard your results, but that shouldn’t stop the research.
So break out STATA and R everyone. Let’s quantify education policy!
Filed under: Education
The Senate – Senators Enzi and Harkin – are making the rounds of their draft ESEA bill.
The bill is receiving high remarks from the Department of Education:
“A bipartisan bill will not have everything that everyone wants, but it must build on our common interests: high standards; flexibility for states, school districts and schools; and a more focused federal role that promotes equity, accountability and reform,” he said in a statement. “This bill is a very positive step toward a reauthorization that will provide our students and teachers with the support they need, and I salute Senators Harkin and Enzi for their good work and their bipartisan approach.” – Secty Duncan
But scorn from civil rights groups that worry that the elimination of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
Here’s my cursory view:
Student learning: The draft ESEA bill takes some of the steps needed in order to re-distribute the priorities of No Child Left Behind and put the focus back onto student learning, rather than endless testing and memorization. This is mostly achieved through the elimination of the 2013-2014 deadline for “all proficient”.
AYP: While most people can agree that the AYP structure was flawed (students cannot all be deemed proficient when tests are based on a bell curve), eliminating it completely and replacing it with the nebulous “continuous improvement.” In order to close achievement gaps, it is essential that achievement and improvement data be tracked for all students and subgroups. If a school “continuously improves” as a whole, but its poor students are doing worse, is this okay under the new bill? Strict accountability for all students and subgroups is necessary to close achievement gaps and ensure that all students are prepared for college.
Codifying Obama Programs: The Obama education programs – Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and Promise Neighborhoods will all be codified. This is great – it means that once the Democrats lose the White House (and therefore top control over the Department of Education), these programs will remain, unless their funding is cut, of course.
Teacher Evaluation: The bill will requires states to develop new teacher evaluation systems. If this leads to distinct developments in teacher evaluation systems (value-added, etc.), this would be great. But, due to teachers’ unions, it’s highly unlike to have this much effect.
Interventions in Schools: Under the new bill, states would decide how to intervene in schools. This makes sense – education power is an inherent state right. However, one of the purposes behind NCLB and the Common Core Standards was to ensure that all states are holding their schools to high standards. The one worry under this specification is that states will allow schools to fall through the cracks – although under the current structure NCLB, states already are allowed to choose how they intervene and they’re able to set their own standards for AYP, so maybe it’s not that bad. The new law would also require the identification of the lowest 5% of schools and dropout factories and provide for more intensive interventions. This makes sense – so long as the interventions discussed are more intense than what are currently in place (or else this provision of the bill just reflects what is currently in place).
So the overall view – changes being made are necessary to adapt NCLB to the reality that the federal government does not have absolute power in education and to allow for some leeway for schools in terms of AYP and proficiency. However, the bill should not lax the standards by which to judge states, districts, schools, and students. High standards are necessary in order to ensure that every school is able to provide every child with a quality education. The reality is, we just can’t put so much pressure on this kids to perform on tests – that’s not learning anyway!
That’s the question Matt Yglesias asks in this Atlantic article.
My interest in education policy focuses on civl rights, segregation, urban education, and general school reform, so this struck me:
Poor kids, in other words, aren’t just stuck in low-performing school districts as some kind of coincidence. They live in them because that’s where it’s cheap to live.
After litigating equity funding…
- Urban schools are still vastly underfunded when compared to their suburban counterparts – even though many urban districts do receive more in educational funding at the state and national level (suburban schools tend to receive more funding from their town tax base, so state fund equalize the funding between districts and federal money (Title I mostly) helps aid the poor students that are more likely to attend urban schools in greater numbers than suburban schools.
- Urban schools simply have more needs than their suburban counterparts because their children are coming to school less advantaged than their suburban peers. Think about it – Billy from Andover started Kindergarten after having gone to a high-quality day care since he was a baby and attending pre-school since age 3. His parents have enrolled him in child swim lessons, mommy and me play sessions, and t-ball. They read books to him every night and engage him in all of those little child learning fads. Johnny from Roxbury is starting Kindergarten after having been home with his older siblings for the past five years. His parents have tried to provide all that they could for him, but they’re struggling to to keep jobs, pay the rent, and put food on the table. Billy is going to come to school with more knowledge off the bat than Johnny simply because of differences in socioeconomic status.
- So yes, urban schools need more because the socioeconomic makeup of these schools is drastically different than most of their suburban counterparts. Urban schools provide more social services, food, healthcare, psychological counseling, mentoring, and tutoring than their suburban counterparts because the families that attend these schools cannot provide these services themselves. And these services cost more.
- Do these urban kids deserve these services – absolutely, because every child in the nation deserves a high-quality education. But, in the end, the urban schools after having spent their money just to provide their students with food, clothes, school supplies, counseling, and tutoring, are left cutting gym class, remaining in crumbling buildings, and cutting out art and music programs (never mind science labs and field trips). The urban schools are still left lacking.
Yet, as it is often said, money will not solve all of our educational problems. Charter schools traditionally operate on smaller budgets than their public school counterparts in the same districts (because most charter schools have to pay for their facilities, whereas PS 102′s school does not have to pay taxes or rent for their building). And some charters are posting impressive results. Charter schools have shown that much can be done with only a little – but that “much” comes from the excessive dedication of the staff, teachers, parents, community, and students. At the way charters are moving, their model is not quite replicable at a large-scale.
Back to the point, urban schools suffer most of their defects because they are fighting an uphill battle against poverty, drugs, crime, and a system that punishes the underclass. This exemplifies “the civil rights issue of our generation” and something needs to be done.
However, Yglesias leaves a qualifier and some food for thought at the end: “If urban neighborhood schools improve, will poor families actually be able to attend them, or will educational progress be a further driver of gentrification and displacement? “
Announced last Friday, the Obama administration’s plan to allow for state to waive NCLB requirements has been getting a lot of support from education officials across the country.
Massachusetts has followed suit today:
Chester said the 100-percent proficiency rule – a key provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act – has lost credibility as an increasing number of schools and districts fail to make yearly progress in fulfilling the requirement. Last week, state education officials announced that more than 80 percent of the state’s schools and more than 90 percent of districts missed proficiency targets on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams that the state established under the federal law.
What does this mean for education in MA? If Massachusetts succeeds in securing a waiver, the largest impact will probably be on no longer being required to fulfill the 100% proficiency requirements of NCLB and being able to re-appropriate Title I money sent to public schools for tutoring (because of low proficiency) to other resources.
Coming out from under the 100% proficiency requirement is a strong step towards righting NCLB with the realities of educational testing – how exactly can one receive 100% efficiency when state tests are developed based on a bell cure? It’s statistically impossible.
My one concern would be that the states will not use this freed-up Title I money correctly. Yes, the current system of using Title I money to pay for private tutoring in schools is littered with waste. But I have yet to see strong plans concerning what states are planning to do with this money. Show me the policies and I’ll show you the money (kind of like Race to the Top anyone?)
Filed under: Education
Where does Connecticut stand?
Here are the Connecticut schools:
“E & E” is the percentage of all graduating seniors who had a scored of 3 or above on at leas one AP test during high school. “Subs. lunch” is the percentage of students who qualify for the federalsubsidized school lunch program.
Take a close look at the list. See that “Subs. lunch” – compare Conard and Hall. Yes, that’s an 8 point difference. Two high schools. One town.
Filed under: Economy
Andrew Sullivan agrees with me:
Dylan Matthews balances Social Security’s balance sheet by lifting the contribution cap:
Currently, wages over a certain yearly total ($106,800 this year) are exempted from Social Security payroll taxes. Medicare’s payroll tax has no such cap. This has raised the question of how raising the cap could extend Social Security’s solvency….Congressional Research Service looked at this question in 2008 by evaluating three different proposals. The first would raise the cap so that 90 percent of wages are taxed (CRS estimates this would mean a cap of $171,600 in 2006) and pay higher benefits to those affected; the second would eliminate the cap and pay higher benefits; and the third would eliminate the cap for taxes but would not increase benefits…
While all proposals put a dent in the shortfall, completely eliminating the cap without increasing benefits actually creates a long-term surplus, and eliminating the cap while increasing benefits comes close. The nature of Social Security as a social insurance, rather than welfare, program suggests that the latter proposal may be more palatable, as it retains the connection between what wage-earners pay into Social Security and what they get out of it.
This is basically a big new tax on the rich. But it is also the closing of a silly loophole. In an ideal world, it would be unnecessary. Now, this reform, or something like it, seems to me to be essential.
Filed under: Education
My vote for CT governor not matter what, but here’s his education plan:
Early Childhood Education
Expand access to pre-Kindergarten programs across Connecticut, the goal being to make it universal within 4 years –> Like
Primary and Secondary Education
Innovate in learning
- Encourage local school districts to restore a broader and deeper curriculum for all students that include hands-on science, history, civics, foreign languages and arts –> Like
- Allow districts to self-fund new charter schools –> Like, but needs to realize the law of diminishing returns in regards to charters
- End the “seat time” later years of high school by allowing successful seniors to graduate early for higher education –> Dislike
- Better fund adult education for those unlikely ever to graduate –> Like
- Create a community college “grade 13″ option for those not quite prepared for college level education. –> Like, but change the name
- Promote high-quality, standard-based assessments –> Like
Innovate in teaching
- Expand access to alternative teaching programs –> Like
- Enhance teacher evaluation systems –> Like
- Champion employee release time for school-time activities (volunteering, parent conferences, etc.) –> Like, doubt feasibility / administering
- Establish a parental involvement challenge grant to promote innovation and adoption of effective parental involvement strategies. –> Like, doubt feasibility / administering
- Require local school boards to adopt policies that ensure parents can access homework assignments and their children’s attendance and available grades in real time. Many districts are doing this already, all should. –> Like
- Examine feasibility of transitioning toward a new, smarter system of funding for all of our public schools where money follows children based on their needs –> Like, but how?
- Refocus state school funding by indexing foundation aid to rising costs, adding measures of essential classroom resource equalization, and weighting more for pre-school and elementary grades where the greatest educational gains can be made –> Meh, seems to be an equity issue
- Limit school district administrative expenditures and instead offering incentives to retain and recruit classroom teachers in the face of cutbacks and a growing teacher shortage –> Doubt feasibility
Move some of the existing community colleges to four year degree granting programs –> Dislike, costs would increase negating the benefit
Build regional partnerships to increase student success –> Like, but what does this entail?
Allow optional testing in high school to gauge college preparedness levels in math and English, and tailor senior year curriculum accordingly –> Like, don’t make it optional
Maintain our commitment to financial aid –> Like, help with private university tuition too
Focus higher education spending on students and learning, not administration –> Like, doubt feasibility
Build a world class research and development sector –> Like, doubt feasibility / importance of government funds in this area
Workforce Development & Job training
Provide more opportunities for high school students to participate in apprenticeship training, earn community-college credit, or gain real workplace experience –> Like
Increase the commitment in our teacher education programs to meeting the needs of our local K-12 schools –> Like
Create a more responsive and integrated rapid reemployment and job training infrastructure that focuses on emergency services for displaced workers –> Like, but how?
Enhance economic security by expanding customized and incumbent-worker job training to help workers enhance their skills and better protect against more jobs being lured from our state –> Like, but how?
Filed under: Economy
A video making the rounds at work: